Mayor statement regarding Marong Business Park

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Statement provided at the July 18, 2018 Council Meeting.

Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke:

Before we start tonight’s meeting, I would like to make some public comments relating to Council’s important work to identify and deliver a business park for Greater Bendigo. This has been a long-term strategic project and key focus of the Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan, and has been driven strongly by support and advocacy from the Loddon, Mount Alexander, Central Goldfields, Gannawarra and Campaspe shires, and the City of Greater Bendigo.

The development of a business park is aimed at creating jobs for future generations and supporting our very successful advanced manufacturing sector.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the decision to apply a Public Acquisition Overlay to the Marong site for the purposes of a business park was one of the hardest decisions this Council has had to make. Compulsory acquisition was absolutely not our preferred option, but we felt as a group, that for the benefit of the Greater Bendigo community and the region it was the right decision to make.

It is disappointing the Minister has not supported our decision, as the State Government had given the green light for this project and rezoned the land last August from Farming to Comprehensive Development. Despite this, the need for industrial land in Greater Bendigo remains urgent and critical, as we only have 10 years’ of industrial land supply left that may never be realised because of where it is located as the city has grown.

Council must now look forward and begin work to find another option to ensure we do not lose businesses and jobs for our growing community. Council will proactively consider its options to ensure a strong future for advanced manufacturing in Greater Bendigo.

Rumours relating to the costs are fundamentally untrue. The City of Greater Bendigo has spent approximately $1.93M in independent studies, legal fees and consultant reports. This equates to roughly $121,000 a year, for the 16 years of the project. These funds were responsibly budgeted for as part of the City’s due diligence for delivering this project over many years.

This is a modest figure given the amount of work undertaken as part of the project over this time. It has included independent investigations of the need for a business park, examining possible sites, economic modelling and environmental studies, which is part of our obligations under the Local Government Act, as well as presentations to the independent panel and associated panel costs.

This is part of Council’s normal strategic planning process, and similar independent studies are routinely undertaken for the development of Township Plans and Structure Plans, for example tonight on the Council agenda is the endorsement of the Greater Bendigo Public Space Plan. All of these activities form part of the work plans for Council staff.

Council’s role in economic development is to be an enabler, to create opportunities for future business development. Some of the work completed so far on the strategy for a business park is still relevant and useful for Council because it is focused on the need for industrial land, irrespective of the Marong site.

Most of the planning amendment assessment work for the project was undertaken in-house, as part of staff work plans, which has meant significant cost savings for Council.

I hope this has been helpful for the community because there have been some outrageous figures bandied about on social media and I think it is important that everyone has the facts.

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